WE ARE ON VACATION! All this week we’ve been at the ocean, which we adore.
We rented this beach house back in January, but didn’t know until the very last minute if it would be safe to go. But it’s been fine! We don’t share living quarters with anyone, there has been a good, brisk wind all the time, and we like the boring end of the beach with tide pools and no cool people or entertainment anyway. We warned the kids we’d be skipping souvenir shops and playgrounds and indoor restaurants and arcades and just focus on being at the beach. And it’s been great!
But wait, I guess I didn’t do a food post last week? Here are a few of the more photogenic things we ate last week:
A very delicious pizza with cherry tomatoes and basil from the garden, thinly-sliced garlic, red onion, black olives, and parmesan. Very pretty
and did not disappoint.
They had a nice sale on steak, so I picked up a few, which Corrie helped to season
and then I broiled them, sliced them, and served the meat on mixed greens with plenty of blueberries, blue cheese, and diced red onions, with red wine vinegar, watermelon on the side.
A wonderful summer meal. This is also great with pears or green apples, rather than blueberries.
We also had sausage subs with fried peppers and onions, and here is a photo of the lovely peppers and onions
And then we had Vaguely Asian Meatballs,
Jump to Recipe
quick-pickled cucumbers,Jump to Recipe
white rice and sugar snap peas. A very flavorful meal, savory and filling but not too heavy.
Okay, on to this week! We keep meals very simple when we’re away from home, so this is more of a “yay, beach!” post, interspersed with a couple of food pictures. Of course there are tons of pics, but I’ll mostly link to my Facebook albums, sorry, lazy person. Four of the oldest kids stayed home for various reasons, so it was just the eight of us this year. And the parakeet, whom we brought for reasons.
(We did not bring the cat, the lizard, or, after much debate, the puppy.)
Corrie packed on Friday. She was very, very ready on Friday. Then she wanted to flip a coin to see if we should go on Saturday, or just go on Friday. She dibsed Friday.
We did whittle her essential luggage down somewhat from here.
And then it was time to go! We got to the beach house around dinner and Damien went to find hunt up some pizza while we unpacked. We don’t have an ocean view from the beach house, but I am not complaining. This is the view from the grownups’ bedroom:
One of the pizzas was sausage and ricotta, which is definitely going into our rotation. Heavens.
We slept through the 9:15 Mass right down the street, but made it to a 10:45. Masks and hand sanitizer and social distancing were all enforced, and the priest announced before communion that we should all remember to keep our masks on until right before we receive, and that if we want to receive on the tongue, we have the right to do so, but he asked that anyone who wants that should go to the end of the line so everyone receiving in the hand could go first. Then he stepped into the sacristy to wash his hands thoroughly and mask up. A good solution.
Then I did grocery shopping. Then we finally got to the beach! It’s such a good beach.
We packed a lunch and spent the late morning and afternoon at the beach.
Then we went for fried dough, which is Corrie’s main reason for going to the ocean, but it was wayyyy too hot, so we had ice cream. Dinner was cold fried chicken from the supermarket and I think chips and peaches.
Damien and I popped out for drinks in the evening, but I got spooked by the crowds, so we just got some Heinekens and drank them on the beach under the full moon.
Hot dogs, chips
We were expecting major storms, so we stuck close to the house on Tuesday. In the morning, we investigated the foggy, foggy salt marshes behind the house.
We also made cookies and played games (I brought Bananagrams, some magnet maze games, Battleship, lots of markers and coloring pages, and cookie and cupcake mix) and read books and watched TV. It got pretty blustery, but we didn’t get hit that hard.
Then when the wind and rain stopped, we went to see how the beach was. Still very windy!
Steak, corn on the cob, chopped salad, bread, S’mores
Day after the storm and the ocean was still out of sorts. Lots of weird stuff on the sand, including this molted baby horseshoe crab shell,
absolute gobs and gobs of seaweed and a million rocks, and the water was murderously cold. This made for a challenging but exhilarating swimming day.
Guys, I cannot even begin to express how much easier it is to be at the beach when you don’t have toddlers or babies. No one wandered away or got lost. No one almost drowned. No one even tried to get drowned. Damien and I could go out and bob around past the breakers together while the younger kids played on the shore, and then sometimes we could lie on a blanket in the sun while the kids played in the water. No one got hysterical because they had sand in their mouth. No one got hysterical at all, or had some kind of diaper emergency. Everyone was reasonable and had a nice time. I never thought we’d get here, but here we are.
I even had help pulling the wagon.
The steak that was on sale at home last week was now on sale at this supermarket, so I bought a bunch and Damien grilled them. He seasoned them with salt and pepper, lime juice and tequila, and they were very tasty! The corn was just boiled in salted water, and we had plenty of pull-apart bread to stop up the steak juice.
We were all fairly exhausted and grumpy by afternoon, but I had been promising S’mores forever, and the coals were still hot after dinner, so S’mores time was upon us. I hate S’mores. They are so absurdly overrated, and the name might as well be “Goods” or “Highly Requested.” What the heck. Then we realized (a) we had no sticks to roast the marshmallows with (and not a tree in sight), and (b) the chocolate bars had already melted in their wrappers. One of the kids wanted to freeze them, but I couldn’t see taking melted chocolate and freezing it so as to re-melt it. So we laid a bunch of graham crackers on a pan, snipped the corners off the wrappers and basically extruded chocolate onto the graham crackers, doled marshmallows onto that, then balanced another layer of graham cracker on that. Then we put the pan over the coals until the graham crackers were burnt and the marshmallows were just barely heated. This is exactly the kind of treatment S’mores deserves, in my opinion. Stupid dessert anyway. S’m’less is more like it.
We had a lazy morning and a good swim in the afternoon. There were some ducks or something bobbing around, and I told Lucy that, if she could catch one, she could bring it home. This didn’t work out well when I made the same offer about a frog, but so far we are duck-free.
At one point during the day, Corrie became The Head of Knowledge, and foretold that our youngest daughter would have rice and seaweed for dinner, but, failing that, that she would settle for a burger.
She had a burger.
We stopped at home to de-sand and then went out again in search of dinner. It turns out the kids all wanted burgers and fries, so that simplified things. Damien and I had steak and cheese, which arrived without cheese or mayo or anything, but I wasn’t gonna start passing food trays back and forth across the counter. Then we got ice cream.
I think Damien and I may pop out for an actual seafood dinner, which is something none of this particular group of kids wants or needs. But we may also answer a deeply adult call to lie around and watch TV. Damien has been working about half-time throughout the week (including virtually attending two hearings as a defendant in a free speech case) and I’ve been gloomily writing terrible things that will never see the light of day.
The great thing about this house is that it’s in quiet neighborhood, it’s a very easy walk from the beach, and there is this wonderful view from the bedroom. Two windows show the church steeple and the water tower, and the other window is the salt marsh, where white egrets swoop around and the brackish tide rises and falls throughout the day.
The ground is dense mud covered with waves and waves of cordgrass, and if you look close, there are periwinkles and little crabs all over the place.
Here are a bunch of pictures of our little trip to the marsh.
The vegetation looks like coarse weeds at first, but up close, they look more like seaweed. Fascinating place. Some of the channels are natural, but some of them are man-made, and there are complicated sluice gates with floating balls to raise them and, I guess, keep the arcades and stuff from flooding. It’s not far from home, but so very different from home!
However, we did promise fried dough back on Monday, and we haven’t yet gotten any fried dough. The Head of Knowledge doesn’t forget these things. So I think we’re getting fried dough if it kills us. And maybe, if the crowds aren’t too bad, your name on a grain of rice.
Okay, I guess my recipe cards this week are just for the Asian meatballs we had last week, and fried dough you can make at home.
Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce
Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.
- 2.5 lbs ground beef
- 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup minced garlic
- 2 bunches scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp ground pepper
For dipping sauce:
- mirin or rice vinegar
- soy sauce
Preheat the oven to 425.
Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.
Bake for about 15 minutes.
Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.
quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.
An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable.
- 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
- 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)
For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved.
Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!
Add them to the brine so they are submerged.
Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.
Makes about 15 slabs of fried dough the size of a small plate
- 4 cups flour
- 4 tsp baking powder
- 1-1/2 tsp salt
- 4 Tbsp (half a stick) cold butter
- 1-1/2 cups lurkworm water
- 2 cups oil for frying
- confectioner's sugar for sprinkling
- cinnamon for sprinkling (optional)
Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Cut the cold butter into bits and work it gently into the dough.
Add the water and stir until the dough is all combined.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rest for 15 minutes
Separate the dough into pieces and flatten each piece into a thin disk with your fingers. If it's sticky, put a little confectioner's sugar on your work surface.
Heat the oil in a pan. You can deep fry it or use less oil and fry it in a small amount of oil; your choice. The oil is ready when you put a wooden spoon in and little bubbles form around it.
Carefully lay the disc of dough in the hot oil. Let it cook a few minutes, just barely getting brown, and then turn it and cook the other side.
Remove the dough, let the excess oil drain off, and sprinkle it immediately with sugar and cinnamon if you like.
You can keep these hot in the oven for a bit, but they're best when they're very hot.